As a UGA grad, I am a die-hard SEC football fan...Go Dawgs! I also love the NFL and basically any other football game I can find on tv. I love to camp, scrapbook, read, watch movies, hike, take pictures, and hang out with friends. I'm a little bit girlie-girl, a little bit tomboy, a little bit southern belle and probably a little bit redneck... does a pink camouflage ball cap from Bass Pro Shops qualify me as redneck?
• Give for the greater good. Look for gifts that also help others build healthier and more sustainable lives. Organizations like Global Exchange, A Greater Gift, and Ten Thousand Villages offer fair-trade products grown or made by farmers and artisans in developing countries from Bangladesh to Zimbabwe. You can find other fair-trade retailers, both online and off, at TransFair USA and the Fair Trade Federation.
• Give a gift that keeps on giving. Shopping for someone who has everything? Why not give to someone less fortunate on his or her behalf? Heifer International, for example, lets you buy anything from a flock of chicks to a cow that will be given to a family for an ongoing food source. Or shop through FundraiserRewards, which connects you with retailers online and off that donate a portion of your purchase price to the organization of your choice.
• Give conflict-free. When purchasing items such as jewelry, consider the source of the metal and/or gems. Precious metals and stones are often mined with destructive mining processes and poor labor practices. Worse yet, some gems, such as the notorious “blood diamonds,” are mined in war zones and sold illegally to finance further violence. There are, however, options available that ensure that your gift does not support such practices. Be sure to spend a little time researching jewelry purchases.
• Give Chic. For creative and unique jewelry gifts, take a look at some wonderful jewelry made from cleverly recycled objects. Vendors such as Eco-Artwear or RepurposedForYou specialize in one-of-a-kind products made from repurposed materials. If your recipient’s jewelry preference is futuristic and tech-inspired, check out Arteco, featuring uniquely crafted jewelry items that make excellent use of recycled high–tech components.
• Give power. When buying electronic toys and other portable items that are used regularly, remember to buy rechargeable batteries and a battery charger to go with them. About 40% of all battery sales occur during the holiday season. Buy rechargeable batteries to accompany your electronic gifts, which reduce the amount of potentially harmful materials thrown away, and can save money in the long run.
No matter how you begin the gift-giving process, be sure to evaluate items already in your home. Donate last year’s unused gifts or toys that the kids have outgrown to charity. Gently-used gift items are in high demand during the holiday season.
After a great deal of research, I've come across so much good information about gifts that I find it cumbersome for a single post. As such, I've decided to split it up into more digestible pieces. We all overeat during the holidays, but there is not need to do so while belly up to the blog table. For your enjoyment, I now present the first course of gift-giving advice for eco-savvy consumers.
In general, if you buy gifts, look for durable and re-usable items and resist the latest “fad” at the mall. Think of how many pet rocks, mood rings, and cabbage patch dolls ended up in the landfill! Consider the durability of a product before you buy it as a gift. Cheaper, less durable items often wear out quickly, creating waste and costing you money. In the end, it truly is the thought that counts, so spend some time thinking about your gift-giving efforts this year. You can not only provide a thoughtful token to your loved ones, but you can also help spread an ethic of sustainability and earth-friendly living.
• Give useful. Rather than giving Dad yet another tie he won’t wear or buying another toy car that will eventually settle to the bottom of a toy bin, give gifts people will really use. Think unique, healthful, and organic foods; organic and chemical-free soaps; shade-grown coffees; flowering or fruiting plants; drawing or writing sets with recycled paper and non-toxic ink pens; or memberships to an area zoo, museum or other child-friendly place.
• Give yourself. Set a good example by giving homemade food. Cookies, cakes, jams, bread and other baked goods make warm and welcome gifts for friends, neighbors, and coworkers.
• Give Green. Literally. For kids, start a savings account or give stocks or bonds. It’s fun to watch money grow and it teaches children the value of financial conservation.
• Give Creativity. Shop for gifts at antique stores, estate sales or flea markets, since one person’s trash is another’s treasure. Old clothes and jewelry make a great dress-up box for kids. Tools and gadgets make a great idea box for a young inventor. You can also have outdated “family heirloom” pieces refashioned into something current.
• Give Sustainability. Give gifts that encourage others to use less stuff, like a book about making crafts from reusable items, cookbook for leftovers, reusable tote bags. You can even set a good example by giving gifts that you made yourself from reused items.
• Give Conservation. Choose gifts that help reduce energy consumption or protect the environment. These can range from solar-powered cell phone and battery chargers and sun-driven garden fountains and bat boxes (for attracting nature’s most effective mosquito-zapper) to bicycles, organic-cotton sheets and pillowcases, and natural beeswax candle sets.
I’m a regular fixture on eBay. Over 80 million of you are, admit it. I look for hard to find scrapbook supplies, bargain prices on sports jerseys, and browse prices to see how much my Barbie and Star Wars items are worth. You know you do it, don’t roll your eyes.
Recently, however, I was searching for more eco-friendly and sustainable gift alternatives. To my delight, I stumbled into WorldOfGood.com by eBay. This recent collaboration between World of Good, Inc. and eBay allows consumers to find ethically-produced goods at the click of a button.
Perhaps the most exciting news about WorldofGood.com is that every item listed in the virtual marketplace is pre-screened, so there's a kind of firewall against would-be greenwashers, scammers, forgers and other unscrupulous opportunists. An eBay spokesperson explains that the screening is done by third-party trust partners (examples include the well established TransFair USA, Co-op America and Aid to Artisans). Items are listed with their Trustology stats, which list the organizations that have verified the seller and/or the producer or both. With so many new retailers, peddling allegedly-sustainable wares, it’s nice to have the stamp of approval from the organizations that know best.
My favorite feature of the site is the "goodprints," which include "people positive," "eco positive," "animal friendly," and "supports a cause." These stamps can be found on item description for every product, and let you know how your purchase makes a difference. How great is that? WorldOfGood.com's general manager, Robert Chatwani, explained that the goal was to empower eBay's 84.5 million users to "not only shop for great products, but for the story behind them, and to benefit people and the planet."
So as you are looking for last-minute gifts, consider WorldOfGood.com. Perhaps you can choose some fair trade, handmade earrings for your sister-in-law, or an organic cotton stuffed animal for your cousin's toddler. You'll feel so righteous about your purchase that you might even throw in some gourmet chocolates for yourself...after all you've been very good this year.
If you can get all your holiday shopping done, while at the same time empowering craftspeople around the world AND saving the planet, why wouldn't you? Oh, and did I mention that the prices are incredibly reasonable? With WorldOfGood.com, eco-sensitive, sustainable-savvy shoppers have found a place where they don't have to spend more to spend better. That sounds good to me.
If every American family wrapped just 3 presents in re-used materials, it would save enough paper to cover 45,000 football fields. Holiday wrapping can be much more fun than just covering a gift with colored paper. Delve into the options below for exciting green alternatives to store-bought wrapping:
• Use reusable fabric gift bags. They are simple to make yourself, or you can purchase them from a variety of retailers. • Give a gift in a gift: A set of canisters, a towel, a sheet, a cup or mug, a hat or cigar box can all wrap or hold gifts without contributing to landfill problems. Visit a garage sale for more container ideas. • Select pictures and stories from newspapers, magazines, and old calendar pictures to make creative wrapping that thoughtfully suits your gift and/or its recipient. • Wrap a travel related present with an out-of-date road map. • Wrap a present in old sheet music. • Wrap presents with used paper or in used boxes and glue magazine pictures on top for color, humor, and style. • Reuse wrapping paper and spice it up by gluing on pictures taken from cards and magazines. • Use flowers or reusable hair ribbons instead of plastic bows. • Use popcorn instead of conventional packing "peanuts" and insert a note explaining that birds can eat it. • Instead of wrapping gifts for the kids, hide the presents, plant clues to where they’re hidden and transform the search into a holiday treasure hunt.
If you are going to purchase wrapping paper, opt for recycled or environmentally-friendly alternatives. Several companies offer beautiful gift wrap and trimmings, made of hemp and recycled materials.
Make sure to recycle all wrapping paper when possible, but check first with your local recycling program to make sure they accept conventional wrapping paper. Most conventional wrapping paper contains a high content of metal and is therefore not accepted by most programs. When not using recycled wrap, try not to buy the metallic wrap because of this reason. In addition to the fact that metallic papers are not usually recyclable, they are also often produced in environmentally unfriendly manner.
With so many fun alternatives to traditional wrapping paper, it's a wonder that we use it at all. Let loose, be creative and see what unique solutions you can create for wrapping gifts this year. And that's a wrap!
...there was a company called Piggy Tales that specialized in creating unique and fun scrapbook supplies named after favorite fairy tales. In 2008, the company announced that it would be printing their entire collection on recycled paper with organic inks. They are promoting the initiative as an effort to save memories and trees.
Company CEO Debbie Juden states, “For an industry that is made up of more than 70 percent paper products, going ‘green’ with our paper seemed like a logical and responsible step. We want to do our part to preserve our natural resources, and we want to be able to give scrapbookers the means to do the same. Scrapbookers are naturally passionate about saving memories; now we are giving them the chance to save the environment as well. It’s just one more reason to feel good about scrapbooking.”
In addition to using recycled paper, Piggy Tales’ paper is lignen and acid free and is printed with soy ink rather than the standard petroleum-based inks. Soy ink contains non-toxic soybean oil and is not only more environmentally friendly, but also makes it easier to recycle the paper. An added benefit of soy-based ink is that it does not contribute to our country's dependency on foreign oil sources.
Many paper companies shy away from recycled paper because of higher costs and difficulty in maintaing vibrant colors and creative designs that are trademarks of popular scrapbook paper collections. Piggy Tales owners, however, say the challenge is worth it. Plus, I think you'll agree that if the new collections are any indication, Piggy Tales has surpassed the bar of brilliant hues and stunning design. And if they can contribute to a general feeling of well-being regarding paper crafting, then I think we'll live happily ever after!
Many families struggle over whether or not the Christmas tree should be live or fake? But there is more to this debate than just convenience or tradition. Even experts are conflicted on the best option for yuletide cheer. There may not be a "right" answer, but here are some options...you can decide what is most important to you.
Live Tree. This is a living tree in a pot. You plant it outside after the holidays and contribute to a better environment and cleaner air in your community. Opt for a species native to your area to prevent the spread of non-native invaders.
Norfolk Island Pine or other houseplant. You use a large houseplant that is already in your home. No waste. No expense. The plant rewards you with cleaner indoor air all year. If you don't have one already, consider picking one up at your local nursery right now - the investment will be cheaper in the long run, and you have something to enjoy all year. Besides the Norfolk Pine, large versions of the Monstera, Philodendron, a tree-shape trained Pothos or multi-branched large Dracaena will all be able to bear the weight of most ornaments and garlands.
Artificial Tree. If you want the look of a traditional Christmas tree, you might want to select an artificial tree. The advantages are that artificial trees do not require cutting down live trees and you can pull it out again and again and again. If you can, buy it used and do your part to reuse and recycle. Just be aware that many artificial trees are made of PVC plastics and/or lead that can release toxic chemicals.
Cut Tree. Many people have mixed feelings about cutting down a tree for essentially cosmetic purposes. Some people really like the smell of a real tree and hate the fake trees. If you decide to have a cut tree, try to find an organic tree farm that avoids harmful chemical pesticides and herbicides. In addition to the fact that you will be supporting the local economy and local agriculture, you can also recycle your tree after the holidays, which will lessen the impact of cutting down a live tree. Remember to avoid putting anything toxic on your tree, like fake snow, which cannot be recycled.
Remember that you don't have to actually have a tree. Be creative, and think about creating an artistic wood, metal or plastic masterpiece from which to hang your goodies. You can design something with an Art Deco look, a streamlined 1950s metal and branched creation, or a California Craftsman-style wood ensemble. Start a new tradition! I promise your Christmas will be just as festive and look fantastic!
For tree trimmings, try edible or compostable items like popcorn or cranberries on a string, gingerbread cookies or items made from “found” objects around your home. Get the kids to make their own tree ornaments out of things you already have around the house, or from materials they might find in the backyard, such as bark, flowers, and pine cones.
One of the principle tenets of craftiness is that almost anything can be turned into a picture frame, clock, candleholder, or lamp. What better way to honor a “green” holiday season than by decorating your indoor environment with recycled and hand-crafted decorations?
One of the best ways to find festive décor is to visit local art and craft fairs. The supplies are often locally-harvested, supporting local artists and purchasing materials that don’t require shipping over long distances.
Another fun way to bring “green” into your home is to do it literally with natural materials collected from the outdoors. Evergreens, seed pods, pine cones, and other plant materials can be added to almost anything to give it a holiday theme. Add a few ribbons from last year’s gifts or other baubles from around the house and you will not only benefit the environment, but your wallet as well. In addition, many of these products are great for kids so you can begin some new family holiday traditions that will instill a conservation ethic that can last a lifetime.
Use live greenery as decor. Rosemary, thyme and sage are all evergreen, wonderfully fragrant and can be used to season recipes all year long. Other fragrant herbs include basil, chamomile, lavender and mint. And small, living evergreen trees can be later planted in your yard for year-round beauty. Using live plants also reduces the fire risks that come with cut greenery, which can become dry by the end of the holiday season.
Decorate with edibles you can enjoy later. Bowls of nuts or fruits, colorful squash, pomegranates, whole pineapples and more can create a festive look that’s later useful – and healthful – as well. While not quite as nutritious, a homemade gingerbread house can be both attractive and tasty too.
Create a fragrant holiday home with natural scents and oils. Rather than using potpourri sprays and traditional scented candles, sprinkle a couple of drops of a natural, essential oil like cedarwood, rose or sandalwood on pinecones or dried flowers (note: don’t apply undiluted essential oils directly to the skin as they can cause severe irritation). If you prefer candles, go with the more eco-friendly soy or beeswax varieties, which don't rely on petroleum-based paraffin. And, of course, there’s always the traditional way to make a home smell welcoming: baking cookies, pies or other invitingly aromatic goodies.
To warm a hearth, should you do a real or fake fire? Duraflame® announced last week that its logs, made of sawdust and castoff nut shells, will use plant-based wax, potentially saving 100 million pounds of petroleum each year. In addition, these logs improve indoor and outdoor air quality by reducing the emission of greenhouse gases that are released by burning traditional cordwood, natural gas, or even other wax logs. Another alternative is the Java Log®, which packs coffee grounds in a renewable, natural vegetable wax and 100% recycled packaging. Not only does this log save trees, but it reduces landfill contributions by diverting 20 million pounds/year of coffee waste that would ordinarily be thrown away.
Many of these decorating ideas provide a great opportunity to spend time with your family, creating holiday items for your home. Kids home for the holidays? Occupy their time making one-of-a-kind ornaments for your home. They will e proud of their contribution to the holiday effort, and you will have a tree that's the talk of the town! In the end, all of these options will create a cozy holiday atmosphere, without destroying the earth's!
Let your fingers do the walking. E-commerce is the wave of the future but remember that it is not necessarily waste-free. Choose items that won’t be excessively packed for shipping. Also select retailers close to you to minimize pollution that arises from shipping items over long distances.
If you shop by mail order catalogue, remember to cancel the ones you don’t need. Did you know that if every catalog recipient cancelled 10 of them, it would reduce that household’s trash by 3.5 pounds per year? (If everybody did this, the stack of cancelled catalogues would be 2,000 miles high?)
Plan your shopping in advance by building your gift idea list through online browsing. Instead of making multiple trips to the mall, start by perusing thousands of ideas for green, organic, and fair-trade gifts through websites such as Co-op America’s National Green Pages. Consolidating your shopping trips saves fuel (and aggravation), and you’ll avoid those last minute frenzies when you won’t have time to make careful gift choices.
During the nation’s busiest shopping season, bring your own shopping bags. Not only does this simple step prevent adding to landfills, but it has the added benefit of reducing our dependence on foreign oil, since plastic bags are petroleum-based.
If you forget your own tote bags, try to consolidate as many purchases into one bag as possible rather than getting a bag at each store. Try to use only paper bags, which are recyclable, biodegrade more readily than plastic, aren’t as harmful to wildlife, and aren't petroleum-based.
When buying gifts you will send by mail, pick items that are easy to ship and won’t require excess packaging. When purchasing shipping supplies, be sure to choose cornstarch packing materials. These packing “peanuts” biodegrade readily because they are made from plant materials. Traditional items such as foam packing peanuts, bubble wrap, foam sheets and foam-in-place, are all produced in environmentally unfriendly ways, are not biodegradable, and contribute to the accumulation of greenhouse gases. Another particularly nasty aspect to these materials is that they all contribute to our reliance on oil and natural gas.
A great shipping option is to use plain, unbuttered popcorn as packaging material. Place a small note in the box that tells the recipient that the popcorn can be used to feed wildlife.
If you receive packages with these materials, be sure to reuse them, as opposed to throwing them away. In addition, many local mailing centers will accept extra packing materials. Call the Plastic Loosefill Council’s Peanut Hotline at 1-800-828-2214 for the names of local businesses that reuse them. (Stores often offer discounts for returning packing materials like cartons and boxes.)
With a little planning and a little forethought, this holiday season can be the most successful and fulfilling holiday in a long time. AND you'll feel so good about your conservation efforts that you might even put something for yourself under the tree!
OK, so I've been gone for a little while- I was moving to a new state and starting an new job...cut me some slack!
Having recently checked the calendar, I was shocked (along with many of you, admit it) to see that it is already December 10! When did that happen. Only 15 shopping days left until Christmas. We all know how hectic this season can be, but did you know how harmful it is to our environment? Experts estimate that the holiday season (between Thanksgiving and New Year's) adds 25 million tons of garbage to our landfills?
A recent poll showed that people want to have a more fulfilling and less stressful holiday season. Sometimes the most treasured gifts we can give are our time, love and energy. In the spirit of giving, I’ve gathered some holiday gift ideas that create less waste and more memories. Many of the ideas provided here will help your family save money, help the planet save its resources, and help you save your sanity! Take this holiday season to truly commit to a more sustainable lifestyle. You’ll feel good about it, and you’ll be instilling a new ethic into family traditions!
Over the next few days, I will be posting information that will allow you to make more informed decisions this holiday season. In my research, I've found that much of this information is available, scattered throughout webpages and splashed haphazardly around the internet. I've tried to compile the most up-to-date recommendations from reliable environmentally-friendly sources. Don’t expect the “right” answers for eco-friendly holidays, because in moany cases there are no “right” answers. Hopefully this guide will inspire you to make more thoughtful choices that will lead to a new tradition of living gently on the planet.